State charter school leaders are sad but not surprised to be targeted for cuts via HB2, a public education budget bill for fiscal 2010.
Brian Allen, chairman of the State Charter School Board, said charter schools are getting treated differently because they are different. "Success is getting punished and mediocrity continues to be rewarded," he said.
HB2 prohibits the expansion of charter school capacity in the 2010-11 school year.
The House passed HB2 Tuesday. It could be debated in the Senate today.
HB2 also outlines the Legislature's decision to implement 6 percent in public education budget cuts for 2010 and identifies one-time revenue sources from the federal stimulus money that is being used to balance the 2010 budget.
"We appreciate the efforts of legislators to restore as much funding as they can from the initial outlook of a 14 or 15 percent or more cut," said state deputy superintendent Larry Shumway.
He added while charter schools offer choice in Utah, "that choice isn't free."
The state's charter and education boards have already approved five new charter schools to open in fall 2010, and given the green light for several others to expand.
"We're shocked," said Barbara Alldredge, board chairwoman of Quail Run, a charter school scheduled to open in Alpine School District in 2010.
An amendment that would have delayed HB2's cap on charter school growth for a year, therefore allowing lawmakers the interim for further discussion, failed in the House Tuesday.
Rep. Ron Bigelow, R-West Valley City, said 18 months gives charters schools plenty of time to cancel or delay plans. "I'm not very sympathetic," he said. "Don't make commitments until the Legislature approves the money. That's how it's supposed to work."
Further nipping at charter schools, HB2 states potential budget constraints in fiscal 2010-2011 may prevent full funding of the appropriation for charter schools to supplement school district tax revenues. If that happens, charter schools' allocation of state funds may be based on charter school enrollment of Oct. 1, 2009.
Rep. John Dougall, R-American Fork, said he is concerned the bill "targets one aspect of public education."
Parents for Choice in Education, a nonprofit group that supports the charter school movement, issued a statement Tuesday encouraging people to call their lawmaker and decry HB2.
"By banning the creation of new charter schools, tens of thousands of children on charter school waiting lists will be denied the opportunity to be in a school that's a better fit for their education needs," stated PCE officials.
Rep. Merlynn Newbold, R-South Jordan, sponsored HB2 for the public education appropriations subcommittee. "We have made some cuts that will be difficult in some areas," she said.
HB2 establishes a ceiling for the state contribution to the Minimum School Program for fiscal 2009-2010 of $2.1 billion. It appropriates $22.5 million to the State Board of Education for fiscal 2009-10 for school building aid programs for school districts. There is also $298 million in federal stimulus money for public education.
The value of the weighted pupil unit, a per-pupil funding method used to dole out state money to school districts, will remain the same. To save money, school districts still have an option of closing school for up to five days to save money.
The budget tightening did mean some significant funds were lost. Some of the cuts made:
$2.9 million set aside for career and technical education.
A quality teaching block grant of $77.6 million.
The annual aging school bus allowance of $8.8 million.
The $20 million in educator performance-based compensation is gone.